March 30, 2005

It's Still the Economy, Stupid

Oh, they whine (this was a tangential but much discussed topic in the comments to Garance Franke-Ruta's post on Political Animal regarding the dearth of women in professional punditry), the Democrats will never win in the South, or the Heartland, or anywhere that could be described with the sainted phrase 'rural America' because they're too tied to elitist social issues. Yeah, right.

Greenberg research surveyed the breakdowns of the 2004 rural vote (pdf) and found that they were the most likely segment of the population to be concerned with economic issues, or to think that the economy was headed the wrong way. They also noted that, contrary to general impressions, the rural vote was fairly dynamic and was not as sure a thing for the Republicans as presumed.

The survey data showed that the top doubt about Kerry was shared at a rate of 36% by both rural and national voting populations, and that doubt was the flip-flopping charge. This was an even bigger problem than the gay marriage issue, if you can believe it, after all the fooferaw. But plenty of pixels have been blackened with discussions of how Kerry should have dealt with the flip-flopping charge, how it could have been easily turned around on Bush, how his political consultants were self-evidently asleep on the job, so let's move on.

Over 70% of all voters believed that there were big differences on important issues between the two candidates, and rural voters were even more likely to believe this. But when it came to the economy, rural voters (44%) were more likely than national voters (34%) to believe there were no differences between the candidates.

Further, though Bush won 59% of the rural vote, 49% of these voters thought the country was going in the wrong direction. It seems very likely that much of this dissatisfaction was of an economic variety, because 50% of rural voters had serious doubts about Bush's "corporate interests" and "tax cuts for the wealthy." This becomes even more significant when, as pointed out by the authors of the report, only 43% of the national voting pool identified these as concerns, which means that the average is articifially high because of the rural vote.

In short, as Greenberg notes, rural voters were more angry over the economic problems that the Democrats utterly failed to either pin on Bush or differentiate themselves on than the rest of the country.

What are the issues that Republicans say Democrats are sure to lose on? Well, the Democrats are about as far to the left on the social issues up for discussion as they're likely to get, and they're still winning half the vote nationwide. The other issues are things like universal healthcare, education funding, unemployment and job retraining support, regulation of big business interests, and progressive taxation. In fact, these economic issues have widespread support, but Democrats are not perceived as supporting them.

Why are Democrats listening more to Republicans than to the American people?

I don't know. It becomes particularly strange to contemplate when you remember the significant amounts of information that many support the Republicans in spite of positions they disagree with, because the Republicans have managed to obscure those issues. It becomes bizarre when you realize that the economic clamorings of the 'radical' Democratic base are shared widely among the very voters that Republicans count as being solidly in their camp.

You have to look no farther than this quote in a Houston Chronicle response to Delay's WSJ roast:

..."My conservative colleagues rely heavily on the Wall Street Journal, but recognize the paper has an agenda different than social conservatives," said Richard Viguerie, a pioneer in conservative political direct mail and founder of the Conservative Digest magazine.

"The Journal is concerned about stable leadership for big business," said Viguerie. "But for (social) conservatives, DeLay is one of our own. He walks with us." ...

How does someone come to believe that Tom DeLay isn't in the pockets of big business? Seriously. This is an enormous vulnerability that Democrats are either crazy or stupid not to jump on with both feet. Or maybe too many of them have just been bought off, as was obvious from the votes on the bankruptcy bill.

The report also discussed the erosion of the female vote. The Democratic party hasn't faced the fact that women aren't single issue voters on abortion. It's an important issue, but it isn't the only one. As Kimberly notes at Crooked Timber, the free time crunch is an enormous issue (on a related note, read this post on the pros and cons of parental leave):

... I will jump right into the fray by remarking on why the United States is not having a conversation about working time and the need for a better work-life balance, despite the expansion in the annual number of hours worked. This trend puts the US at odds with much of Western Europe, where the annual number of hours worked has fallen since the 1970s (as shown by the OECD). The United States also is one of the only advanced industrialized countries without a paid parental leave. Yet, the silence on these issues – from both major political parties – is deafening. ...

Even Frank Luntz, Republican pollster and hatchet man, has found that "lack of free time" is consistently a number one issue for his focus groups. And considering that mothers tend to have less free time than fathers, you can't tell me this isn't a major women's issue, even a family values issue. In fact, as the article on the flip of that last link goes on to relate:

... Is it any wonder that stress and burnout is rampant in America, and that working women with children feel as Luntz says they do? Time is a family value. Marriage, friendship, children, community involvement, environmental stewardship and civic participation all suffer from our lack of free time. But what can be done about this burning issue? "Right now," Frank Luntz says, "no one has created an agenda, what I would call the Free Time Agenda. So it's up for grabs." ...

But this is also, and very definitely, an economic issue. It's business interests that howl to high heaven when anyone suggests that all their workers get the family leave, sick leave, and vacation time that they give their most valuable employees. They shriek like banshees when someone wants to cap work hours, mandate overtime pay for depriving their employees of what should otherwise be free or family time, or insists that cities put in the sort of public transportation that would allow those who can't afford a vehicle to get to their destinations in a timely fashion.

These are issues that every Democrat should be able to support, and more importantly, be able to clearly articulate to the public. However, Democrats all too often remain silent on them either because they've gotten bad advice, or they're in the pockets of business.

These are issues we could win on, and that we would deserve to win on because they would represent a significant victory for the voting public against elitist economic interests. Who's going to bite?

Posted by natasha at March 30, 2005 01:27 AM | Economy | Technorati links |

Great post, natasha. This definitely covers the topic. Where are the politicians that recognize the importance of these themes and will help fight for those affected by them?

Posted by: Mary at March 30, 2005 02:56 AM

So....natasha? I think Dem's like Joe biden could use a good strategist and writer like you for '08!
Well articulated, natasha.

Posted by: Stewart Resmer at March 30, 2005 10:03 AM

I am not willing to move on. That fucking idiot John Kerry voted for the war and got slapped as a flip-flopper for it.

Rightly so. Those god damn IDIOTS in Iowa thought he could get away with it! It totally fucked us!

I screamed bloody murder when traitors in our party voted for the war, we had lost the election right then. The number one response from the electorate about wishing what they want from Democrats is "that they stand for something."

Why? Because John Kerry was too much of a pussy to do the right thing and voted for the war.

Way to go. If we had just done the obivously right thing Bush would be retired this very second. That's all we have to do in the future, too, but there are so many pussies like John Kerry around I'm almost hopeless and hurting bad.

Fuck you, John Kerry, you failed us horribly. I hope you feel terrible about it for the rest of your life, you fucking blood-stained idiot.

Posted by: paradox at March 30, 2005 11:56 AM

Tom DeLay, Go Home
posted by Sean Sirrine @ 4/4/2005 01:20:00 PM 0 comments

I think it is time for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to go home and take care of his own community. There has been a lot of hype in the media following his statements following the death of Terri Schiavo. DeLay claims that the judiciary is responsible for the mishandling of the Schiavo case, and that these judges may need to be impeached.

I was directed to a story by, which I’m sure some of you have seen. Findlaw reports that the death of Sun Hudson came about two weeks before Terri Schiavo’s death, but where was the outcry from DeLay? This case seems to me to be every bit as important as the Schiavo case, and it even happened in Texas:

Sun Hudson had been diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder called
thanatophoric dysplasia, a condition characterized by a tiny chest and lungs too
small to support life. He had been on a ventilator since birth.

Wanda Hudson unsuccessfully fought to continue her son's medical care. She
believed he needed time to grow and could eventually be weaned off the

"I wanted life for my son," Hudson said Tuesday. "The hospital gave up on
him too soon."

Texas law allows hospitals to end life support in cases such
as this but requires that families be given 10 days to find another facility to
care for the patient. No hospital was found to take the baby.

So, DeLay is up in arms about the decisions of some judges over in Florida, but back in Texas we see that it is okay to allow people to die based on the decision of the hospital. I thought this was all about a “culture of life”, not about who could afford the medical care.

Now, I obviously disagreed with Congress’s actions involving the Schiavo case, but I would expect that even those that disagree with me politically would have a hard time swallowing the garbage that DeLay is throwing around these days. At least in Florida someone that had no vested interest in the parties to the case made the decision. In Texas, a hospital that doesn’t want to provide care anymore can legally disconnect their patients regardless of the wishes of the patient.

I believe in the rights of the patient, or in the case of Sun Hudson, the rights of the mother to decide whether or not to cut life support. The Schiavo case came about because there was some argument as to who should be making the decision for Terri. There was no such question in the Hudson case, the hospital made the choice.

Why isn’t everyone more upset at this? Do you want the hospital that is providing your care to decide if you should live or die?

These laws can be found in Chapter 166 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. The particular issue at hand is found in § 166.001, also known as the Advance Directives Act, which was signed into law in 1999 by then Governor George W. Bush. Interestingly, at least three Montgomery County state and federal legislators believe the law deserves a second look according to The Courier, but where is DeLay?

DIRECTIVE AND IS INCOMPETENT OR INCAPABLE OF COMMUNICATION. (b) If the patient does not have a legal guardian or an agent under a medical power of attorney, the attending physician and one person, if available, from one of
the following categories, in the following priority, may make a treatment
decision that may include a decision to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment:

(1) the patient's spouse;
(2) the patient's reasonably available adult children;
(3) the patient's parents; or
(4) the patient's nearest living relative.
(f) The fact that an adult qualified patient has not executed or issued a
directive does not create a presumption that the patient does not want a
treatment decision to be made to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining
treatment. (g) A person listed in Subsection (b) who wishes to challenge a
treatment decision made under this section must apply for temporary guardianship
under Section 875, Texas Probate Code. The court may waive applicable fees
in that proceeding.

So, we see that there are very similar issues in Texas as were found in Florida. The husband is the priority decision maker, but the parents could have tried to wrestle that decision away in the courts. Should the courts get involved? They have to, it’s the law. Also, I’d like to note that the law in Texas doesn’t presuppose that the patient wants to stay alive. Now, if I understand correctly, the argument that Congress made was that there should be a presumption of life. Texas explicitly denies this concept.

DECISION.(e) If the patient or the person responsible for the health care
decisions of the patient is requesting life-sustaining treatment that the
attending physician has decided and the review process has affirmed is
inappropriate treatment, the patient shall be given available life-sustaining
treatment pending transfer under Subsection (d). The patient is
responsible for any costs incurred in transferring the patient to another
facility. The physician and the health care facility are not obligated to
provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the written decision
required under Subsection (b) is provided to the patient or the person
responsible for the health care decisions of the patient unless ordered to do so
under Subsection (g). (g) At the request of the patient or the person
responsible for the health care decisions of the patient, the appropriate
district or county court shall extend the time period provided under Subsection
(e) only if the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is a
reasonable expectation that a physician or health care facility that will honor
the patient's directive will be found if the time extension is

If the patient cannot find a place to be moved after the hospital decides to end life sustaining activities, the patient is unable to challenge the hospital’s decision. Maybe this it what DeLay wants though, at least you don’t have the judiciary making decisions on issues like what the patient might want.

§ 166.158. DUTY OF HEALTH OR RESIDENTIAL CARE(b) The attending
physician does not have a duty to verify that the agent's directive is
consistent with the principal's wishes or religious or moral beliefs.

This is the most ominous portion of the code. Not only can the hospital make decisions for patients, if an agent of the patient decides against life, the hospital doesn’t even have to consider whether or not this was the wish of the patient. Here, we see that Texas code gives little value to patients’ rights. I think there are enough problems with the code in Texas that Tom DeLay could get involved if he truly cares about this issue.

So, Tom DeLay, please go home and fix your own problems. It is much easier to point the finger at someone else’s mistakes than fix your own, but we all know we’ll see you in the media shortly decrying this outrageous injustice.

Posted by: Sean Sirrine at April 4, 2005 03:33 PM